The Alternative Vote – Yes or No?

This week, the government launched it’s campaign on AV. There is going to be a referendum in a few months time – and we get to decide whether to use AV or whether to use First Past the Post in the future.

AV – the Alternative Vote – is a system where voters rank the candidates in order of preference. Simply putting “1”, “2” and “3” in the boxes. When the votes are counted, if no candidate has a majority of the vote, the candidate with the fewest number of votes is eliminated and their votes are then assigned to one of the remaining candidates, depending on the the next preference on each ballot paper… and this continues until a clear winner is found.

Nick Clegg will be arguing for this system, saying that “the current system breeds corruption and means millions of votes are wasted“. Which isn’t strictly true; under the current system, every vote is counted – you just have to accept that sometimes, your candidate won’t win. Under AV, the least place candidate’s votes are reassigned to another candidate, when the least placed candidate is eliminated. I call that a wasted vote!

David Cameron will be arguing against this system, saying that “the Alternative Vote (AV) system would lead to unfair election results, with the public’s second choice capable of gaining power“. But don’t Labour have more MPs than the Conservatives, who are only in power because they went in to coalition with the Liberal Democrats? So the current system has lead to what some might call an unfair election result, with the public’s second choice in power.

Whilst I don’t think Cameron particularly has given very strong arguments, I think I would be against a move to AV. First Past the Post is a nice, simple way of voting. Vote for one candidate, and when the votes are counted the candidate with the most number of votes is the winner. I don’t see what could be wrong with that!?? Whereas on AV, the candidate with the most number of votes isn’t necessarily the winner if the percentage of the vote they got is below 50%.

To use AV in a horse race would be like saying that, because the first placed horse wasn’t far enough away from the second placed horse to be a clear win, the first place horse is therefore not the winner, but the second placed horse is. Using something like this as a way of describing the different voting systems is a good way to show what is wrong with them!

The referendum on AV will take place on 5. May 2011, coinciding with many local elections. For the first time, I am old enough to vote now… which means that I will be able to vote No to AV!

Do let me know your thoughts on this. You can comment in the box below, or e-mail me on admin@fred-hart.co.uk.

Disclaimer: These are my views, not those of any radio stations of which I am a part.

Fred Hart

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